Jim's Reviews > Miramar

Miramar by Naguib Mahfouz
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's review
Aug 22, 09

bookshelves: psychology, mystery, assigned-college-reading, historical-fiction
Read in November, 1999

Miramar was assigned reading for an undergraduate class that I took on Middle Eastern history. It's a combination murder mystery and character study, told Rashomon-style from the perspectives of several different guests staying at the Miramar hotel in 1950s Egypt. At the center of it all is Zohra, a liberated young female employee at the hotel who fled from her traditionalist family to escape being forced into an unwanted marriage. She is the object of all the guests' attentions, and their reactions to her run the gamut from admiration to resentment. It definitely helps to read this knowing something about modern Egyptian history, both to understand the context of the setting and to grasp the symbolism that Mahfouz imbues in his characters - each of the guests represent particular aspects of Egyptian society, while Zohra is meant to symbolize the entire nation of Egypt itself. Even if you don't know anything about Egypt, though, I think Miramar could still be enjoyed simply for the quality of its characters and storytelling.
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